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Khosrow II (590–628 CE)
Khosrow II (r. 590–628 CE) was the last great Sasanian king who took the throne with the help of the Romans and broke with dynastic religious preferences as he became married to a Christian empress. It was under his rule that the Sasanian Empire reached its greatest expansion. From the standpoint of iconographic studies, Khosrow II is among the most influential Persian kings. Although he was literally occupied by rebels and wars within the borders of the Sasanian territories and beyond, Khosrow managed to create a powerful image of himself that emphasized the legitimacy of his monarchy. Indeed, Khosrow Parviz (the Victorious) drew upon royal iconography as a propaganda tool on a wide range of materials such as rock and stucco reliefs, coins, seals, and metal plates. His image (created both visually and verbally) not only revived the traditional iconography of the Persian kings but also evolved it in a way that transcended his time and was passed on to the early Islamic Caliphates after him. Khosrow II imitated and manipulated the traditional royal iconography of his predecessors in order to display his legitimacy, piety, and valor.
17 May 2022
William II of Hauteville (1171-1189)
William II of Hauteville King of Sicily (1171–1189). William II of Hauteville was the third king of the Norman dynasty on the throne of Sicily. He ruled independently from 1171 (from 1166 to 1171 he was under the regency of his mother) to 1189. From an iconographic point of view, he is particularly interesting because he was the first king of Sicily who made use of monumental images of himself. In particular, we have five official (namely, commissioned directly by him or his entourage) representations of him: the royal bull, the royal seal, and three images from the Cathedral of Monreale (near Palermo): two mosaic panels and one carved capital.
18 Apr 2022
John II Komnenos (1118–1143)
John II Komnenos was the son of Emperor Alexios I Komnenos and Eirene Doukaina, and brother of Princess Anna Komnene, the author of the Alexiad. Born in 1087, he was crowned soon after his fifth birthday as co-emperor with his father, and in 1105, he was married to Piroska Árpád, daughter of King Ladislaus I of Hungary and Adelaide of Rheinfelden. He is principally known for continuing his father’s work of stabilising Byzantium after the crises of the eleventh century. This included major wars of defence and conquest in both the Balkans and Anatolia, and especially a major eastern expedition in 1137–1139. During this campaign, he conquered Cilicia, but he was recalled to defend his borders against the Turks before he could make further conquests in Syria and bring the crusader states under his aegis. He died in a hunting accident just before he returned to Syria, with intentions to go to Jerusalem as well. His best-known iconographic representation is a mosaic of him and his wife in the Great Church of Sophia. Whilst there is also an image of him in a contemporary ornate gospel book, his most common representations are found on his many coin issues and seals.
13 Apr 2022
Ladislaus II Jagiełło (1386–1434)
Ladislaus II Jagiełło (1386–1434). Ladislaus II Jagiełło is the founder of the Jagiellonian dynasty that had ruled over Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (until 1572), Bohemia (1471–1526) and Hungary (1440–1444, 1490–1526). A Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1377, and from 1386 a king of Poland and lord of Lithuania, which he ruled jointly with his cousin Witold (Vytautas), the son of Kęstutis. Five medieval portraits of Jagiełło survive, four of which date from the period of his reign in the Polish–Lithuanian state and one was executed posthumously. The earliest image, on Jagiełło’s Great Seal, was made in connection with his coronation as king of Poland (1386). Two portraits in the Holy Trinity Chapel at the Castle of Lublin (1418) are part of a wall paintings scheme commissioned by the monarch and executed by a team of painters brought from Ruthenia. Furthermore, the sumptuous tomb (before 1430) in Cracow was commissioned by the king. Its top slab bears an effigy of Jagiełło with his suggestively rendered countenance, which undoubtedly reflects the actual facial features of the elderly monarch. An image of the king represented as one of the Three Magi in a panel of an altarpiece in the tomb chapel of Casimir IV Jagiellonian, Jagiełło’s son and his successor on the Polish throne, dates from 1470. The chapel dedicated to the Holy Cross, erected at Cracow Cathedral, was in all likelihood commissioned by Casimir himself and his consort Elizabeth of Austria.
13 Apr 2022
Henry II of Trastámara (1366–1367, 1369–1379)
Henry II of Castile, also known as Henry of Trastámara, from the Latin “Tras Tamaris” (or beyond the Tambre River), King of Castile and León (1366–1367, 1369–1379) was the first king of the Trastámara Dynasty. In summary, it was a minor branch of the house of Burgundy (or an “Iberian extension” of it), with presence in the kingdoms of Castile, Aragon, Navarre, and Naples. Most notably, it began playing an essential role in the kingdom of Castile, but after the Compromise of Caspe, its power extended decisively to the kingdom of Aragon (1412). Henry II was the illegitimate son of Alfonso XI and his lover Leonor de Guzmán. He waged a civil war against his stepbrother, Peter I, legitimate heir to the throne, as the son of Alfonso XI and Maria of Portugal, Queen of Castile. Henry’s determination to be recognized as king led him to employ the arts in a campaign to discredit his stepbrother and tarnish his image, portraying himself as a defender of the faith with the right to rule. He built the Royal Chapel (1371) in the main church of Córdoba (today’s Mosque/Cathedral) for the burial of his father and grandfather, Ferdinand IV, in order to underscore his connection to the royal line, and refurbished the Puerta del Perdón (Gate of Forgiveness) in 1377, the main entrance to the church, for use as a dramatic stage for public events.
13 Apr 2022
Stefan Uroš II Milutin Nemanjić (1282–1321)
King Stefan Uroš II Milutin Nemanjić (1282—Donje Nerodimlje, October 29, 1321) was a Serbian medieval king, the seventh ruler of the Serbian Nemanide dynasty, the son of King Stefan Uroš I (r. 1243–1276) and Queen Helen Nemanjić (see), the brother of the King Stefan Dragutin (r. 1276–1282) and the father of King Stefan Dečanski (r. 1322–1331). Together with his great grandfather Stefan Nemanja, the founder of the Nemanide dynasty, and his grandson, Emperor Stefan Uroš IV Dušan, King Milutin is considered the most powerful ruler of the Nemanide dynasty. The long and successful military breach of King Milutin, down the Vardar River Valley and deep into the Byzantine territories, represents the beginning of Serbian expansion into southeastern Europe, making it the dominant political power in the Balkan region in the 14th century. During that period, Serbian economic power grew rapidly, mostly because of the development of trading and mining. King Milutin founded Novo Brdo, an internationally important silver mining site. He started minting his own money, producing imitations of Venetian coins (grosso), which gradually diminished in value. This led to the ban of these coins by the Republic of Venice and provided King Milutin a place in Dante’s Divina Commedia. King Milutin had a specific philoktesia fervor: He built or renovated over three dozen Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries not only in Serbia but also in Thessaloniki, Mt. Athos, Constantinople and The Holy Land. Over fifteen of his portraits can be found in the monumental painting ensembles of Serbian medieval monasteries as well as on two icons.
13 Apr 2022
Helen Nemanjić (1250–1314)
Queen Helen Nemanjić (?–Brnjaci near Zubin Potok, February 8, 1314) was a Serbian medieval queen and consort of King Stefan Uroš I (r. 1243–1276), the fifth ruler of the Serbian Nemanide dynasty. She was the mother of the kings Stefan Dragutin and Stefan Uroš II Milutin. Today, she is known as Helen of Anjou (Jelena Anžujska in Serbian) although her real name was most probably Heleni Angelina (Ελένη Aγγελίνα). She was the founder of the Serbian Orthodox monastery of Gradac as well as four Franciscan abbeys in Kotor, Bar, Ulcinj, and Shkodër. Together with her sons, Kings Stefan Dragutin and Stefan Uroš II Milutin she helpedrenovation of Benedictine abbey of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus near Shkodër on Boyana river in present-day Albania. After the death of her husband, she ruled Zeta and Travunija until 1306. She was known for her religious tolerance and charitable and educational endeavors. She was elevated to sainthood by the Serbian Orthodox Church. Along with Empress Helen, the wife of Serbian Emperor Stefan Uroš IV Dušan, Queen Helen was the most frequently painted woman of Serbian medieval art. Six of her portraits can be found in the monumental painting ensembles of the Serbian medieval monasteries of Sopoćani, Gradac, Arilje, Đurđevi Stupovi (Pillars of St. George), and Gračanica, as well as on two icons and one seal. Queen Helen is also the only female Serbian medieval ruler whose vita was included in the famous collection of the “Lives of Serbian Kings and Archbishops” by Archbishop Danilo II, a prominent church leader, warrior, and writer.
13 Apr 2022
Joanna I of Anjou (1343–1382)
Joanna I of Anjou (1325–1382), countess of Provence and the fourth sovereign of the Angevin dynasty in south Italy (since 1343), became the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Sicily, succeeding her grandfather King Robert “the Wise” (1277–1343). The public and official images of the queen and the “symbolic” representations of her power, commissioned by her or by her entourage, contributed to create a new standard in the cultural references of the Angevin iconographic tradition aiming to assimilate models shared by the European ruling class. In particular, the following works of art and architecture will be analyzed: the queen’s portraits carved on the front slabs of royal sepulchers (namely those of her mother Mary of Valois and of Robert of Anjou) and on the liturgical furnishings in the church of Santa Chiara in Naples; the images painted in numerous illuminated manuscripts, in the chapter house of the friars in the Franciscan convent of Santa Chiara in Naples, in the lunette of the church in the Charterhouse of Capri. The church of the Incoronata in Naples does not show, at the present time, any portrait of the queen or explicit reference to Joanna as a patron. However, it is considered the highest symbolic image of her queenship.
13 Apr 2022
Alphonse II of Aragon (1164–1196)
Alphonse II King of Aragon (1164–1196). He was the first king of the Crown of Aragon and son of the Queen Petronila of Aragon (1157–1164) and the count of Barcelona, Ramon Berenguer IV (1137–1162). Aware of the new political reality that he embodied as King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona, Alphonse II made significant changes to his iconography. Among the most important of these is the binomial that he incorporated to his pendent seals; that is, a portrayal of Alphonse enthroned as king on the obverse and Alphonse as count and mounted on a horse on the reverse. As a known bibliophile and as a result of his desire to reorganise his chancellery following the union of various political entities, he ordered the compilation of the Liber Feudorum Maior, the folios of which demonstrate his potestas regia through their lavish iconography. He was no less innovative in his coinage, on which he included, for the first time, the image of his head wearing the crown.
13 Apr 2022
Peter IV of Aragon (1336–1387)
Peter IV king of Aragón (1336–1387). He was the seventh king of the Crown of Aragon, and father of Juan I (1387–1396) and Martín I (1396–1410), the last members of the dynasty to take the throne. When Martín died, the Trastámara branch occupied the throne of the kingdom. Peter IV was dazzling in his ability to use art as a tool of authority and sovereignty. With the aim of exalting the dynasty, he patronised various enterprises, among the most important of which was the abbey of Santa Maria de Poblet, which he intended to be a burial place for himself and his successors, a wish that was fulfilled, without exception, down to Juan II, the predecessor of the Catholic Monarchs. A perfectionist and zealot, he endowed important religious events with profound political significance, and promoted works of great symbolism such as the genealogy of the new saló del tinell, or the ordinacions de la casa i cort, to which he added an appendix establishing how the kings of Aragon were to be crowned.
13 Apr 2022
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Luis V. Lopez-Llorca
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